Back in 1989, way before Windows 3.1 and OS/2 Warp etc, and long before I had even heard of XWindows, Adrian Elgar and I had a smart idea. We thought that a virtual, 1st perspective desktop environment would be a pretty neat way to run a machine …

Imagine, “viewing” a document on your “desk” – seamlessly opening your word processor (or equivalent) and typing (or even writing) your document up without leaving the desktop environment. If you wanted to do something else, push the application aside (instead of “minimising” or “hiding” the app) or move about to change your POV.

To play a game, just walk over to the arcade machine (although nowadays, I suppose this could be a gateway to a Sony Playstation!). Want a file? Go into the filing cabinet.

I suppose now that the paradigm of the “small office” is a bit outmoded and tacky (the way I remember the desktop – sitting at your desk – is almost exactly the same presentation as the Magic Cap UI used by Motorola in their Envoy PDA… except ours was 3D, not 2D =), but it was still a neat idea…

However, the Virtual Desktop ended up being vaporware. We were going to code it on our school’s Mac Classics using HyperCard, but exams appeared out of nowhere and that – as they say – was that. It’s a project we’ve conceptually revisited from time to time, but we’ve done nothing more than gab about it …

Now, though, we have access to enough computing power to harness the ideas we introduced to ourselves 6 years ago … Using Sun workstations with seriously powerful graphics and processing capabilities, we now have the capability to produce a working 3D virtual environment in which normal ‘puting operations could be performed (although I think a 3D floating xterm is not quite out of the picture … yet =).

It should be pointed that this project didn’t involve buying some DataGloves and HMDs from VPL – we intended to navigate our 3D environment using just the standard mouse and keyboard combo – therefore not alienating 99.5% of potential users (hey, we thought we might get this going some day … 😉

This is still our plan. This is our project. This is the Virtual Desktop.

Watch for new updates on the Virtual Desktop on these pages.

Produced by William Anderson on washington @ Wed Feb 22 01:03:55 GMT 1995